Millions of American suffer from mental illnesses – many suffer in silence.
Since 1949, May has been observed as Mental Health Month. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but the stigma surrounding mental health forces many to fight the battle alone. Others’ judgments almost always stem from a lack of understanding rather than information based on facts.
What is Depression?
Depression (Major Depressive Disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home. Depression is different from sadness and grief.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people ages 15 – 44, impacting more than 16.1 million Americans every year. People of any age can experience depression, but it’s most common for people around age 32 and more prevalent in women than in men.
The symptoms of depression include feeling discouraged, sad, hopeless, angry, low energy, overwhelm, a general lack of motivation, and as though a black cloud is overhead. These feelings can interrupt daily tasks at work, at home, and impact relationships. For some, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and impaired physical function.
For many, a combination of conventional medication and psychotherapy is the go-to treatment for relief from depression symptoms. Therapies that work to help a person develop more positive thinking and behavior patterns have shown to be effective. Advanced treatments include electroconvulsive shock therapy where a person is exposed to high-energy electric stimulation.
Medications for depression generally increase stimulant substances to the brain to alleviate symptoms. These medications include Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI), Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), and Benzodiazepines. Side effects of drugs include nausea, headaches, weight changes, insomnia, loss of sexual desire and erectile dysfunction, irritability, dizziness, and others. Benzodiazepines are considered highly-effective, but long-term use requires increasing dosages and can lead to addiction. These side effects have some people looking for new ways to get relief from their symptoms.
CBD, Depression, and Science
CBD is quickly becoming part of the equation for those living with depression. CBD is a cannabinoid that occurs naturally in the hemp plant and works with the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to restore balance and homeostasis to the central nervous system. The ECS impacts body functions including mood, fight or flight, digestion, immune health, and inflammatory responses. The body’s ECS has receptors which naturally welcome CBD.
Studies show CBD can work in conjunction with the body to regulate mood and stress responses and therefore impact depression. A 2016 study published in Neuropsychobiology looked at genetic animal models of depression and found that CBD may be beneficial for the treatment of clinical depression. A 2018 study published in Behavioral Brain Research, found CBD has potential as antidepressant medication.
Anecdotal Evidence of CBD’s Effectiveness
While researchers continue to probe the effects of CBD on depression, anecdotal information from consumers is showing positive results. According to Consumer Reports, 37% of the people surveyed are using CBD to reduce stress and anxiety and to help them relax. 63% say CBD is extremely or very effective. 30% of people also reported using CBD in addition to medication. 22% replaced their medications including OTCs, prescription opioids, anti-anxiety and depression drugs, and prescription sleep medications. 74% reported no side effects.
Reaching Out for Help
Only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents receive needed treatment. Depression can drain you and make you feel like you have no options left – you do.
Reach out to a friend, family member, or your doctor. If that isn’t an option or something you aren’t comfortable doing, there are many resources available online.
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
You are not alone.